CRL hearings: Couple's allegations of oral sex against Rivers of Living Waters leader Bishop Zondo

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Bishop Zondo. (Photo by Gallo Images / Sowetan / Thulani Mbele)
Bishop Zondo. (Photo by Gallo Images / Sowetan / Thulani Mbele)
WARNING: This story contains strong content not for sensitive readers.
  • A couple has accused Rivers of Living Waters leader Bishop Stephen Zondo of manipulation.
  • The couple testified before the CRL Commission, revealing that the leader allegedly engaged in oral sex with congregants. 
  • The leader is also accused of financial exploitation, using lies to get funds for his church.

Harrowing allegations, which include forced oral sex, rape and manipulation, were levelled against Rivers of Living Waters Ministries leader Bishop Stephen Zondo on Monday.

The allegations were revealed during a hearing held by the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission), chaired by Professor David Mosoma.

READ | Woman defends Rivers of Living Waters Ministries bishop after her niece accuses him of rape

Among those who testified was a woman who joined the church in 2008.

The woman testified, along with her husband, and both wished to remain anonymous.

She told the commission that, because she had a "gift of dreaming" things that would later come to life, one of the church's leaders, Pastor Poswa, introduced her to the Bishop in 2011.

The woman added that, because Zondo was interested in her "gift", he made her part of a group, which was called "prayer warriors".

She said, at the time she joined, she was a student at North West University's Vaal campus.

She then detailed what she experienced during her time in the "prayer warriors" group.

She said, in the prayer group, Zondo would give each of them prayer items, which they had to pray for. She added that the Bishop called her every morning, from 2011 until about 2018/19, to find out what she had dreamt about.

"Some of the dreams I had included prophesies. There were many of us and the thing with him is that he has a selfish personality - if you were not giving him what he wants to hear, that is not enough. It must be something he wants to hear," the former church member testified.

The woman added that she had deemed Zondo her spiritual father and had high respect for him, unaware of what was to come.

A rape victim

The church leader would call every day to check on what she had dreamt of and, in return, paid them R1 200, which was for airtime - for them to call him back if they saw his missed calls.

The woman testified that she was a rape victim and had disclosed this to the leader.

She said the prayer group had more women than men, and they would act in a particular manner whenever they were in the Bishop's company.

She said:

One of the reasons I had a problem with the way they acted was the fact that, growing up, I was a rape victim, and he knew that.

She said some of the women started commenting a lot about the leader, even about his manhood, which was concerning to her.

Despite the church leader knowing her rape situation, it, however, did not stop him from pursuing her, she said.

The woman also testified that one of the congregants, who worked at the church, once called her and said: "My friend, I am going to resign at the church. I am tired of giving this man blowjobs. I am tired of sleeping with this old man because I can no longer sleep with my husband."

Sexual feelings prayer

She said, in December 2018, Zondo called her to his office to say he wanted to pray for her marriage. When she arrived, he prayed for her, but what transpired later shocked her.

"I went there (his office), and he prayed. It was necessarily good prayers and maybe, in his mind, he thought whatever he used on other women at that time, had worked on me.

"My hands were up, but my mind was on my baby because she was still outside with my husband and I was still breastfeeding."

While praying, she said Zondo said he prayed for her marriage, and her "sexual feelings". She said the leader then said he prayed for her sexual feelings to be expressed on him.

She said: 

I was like, how can I express my sexual feelings to him. I didn't even open my eyes, literally, he forced his penis into my mouth. I opened my eyes because I was shaking, [thinking], this person knows what I have been through and how much it took me to be where I am with my husband and he does that to me.

Following the incident, the woman said she stormed out and spent some time alone in the toilet. 

Her husband added that he was so hurt and disappointed when he found out what the leader had done to his wife. 

He added that the leader was manipulative, to the extent that he forced his wife to lie to potential funders of the church that the church paid for her studies, when that was not the case. 

"When my wife started to tell me about these things, it hurt me the most because I know that Zondo utilises the weaknesses of people." 

He added that people went to the church and came out poor because of the exploitation.

Selfish

The husband said: 

In terms of education, he was utilising the potential my wife had. He told her that you must go and give testimony of how I took you to school, manipulating her. We did not see it as a bad thing at that time. We thought this was a strategy he uses to raise funds for the church.

The husband added that there was no truth to Zondo claiming to fund the education of youngsters. He added that Zondo was using it as a front to get the attention of funders. 

"Zondo doesn't give anything to anyone. He is so selfish."

His wife testified that Zondo claimed he paid for her tuition, but it was instead through NSFAS that she was able to complete her studies, and she had statements to prove it. 

The couple has also accused the bishop of cursing them when they left the church after the December 2018 ordeal. 

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